The police lay a charge against a teacher for possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking. With private legal counsel, the teacher achieves a plea bargain with the Crown. The trafficking charges are withdrawn, but a guilty plea is registered for possession. The member receives an absolute discharge with no conviction.
However, after the story is reported in the local newspaper, someone makes a formal complaint about the teacher’s behaviour to the Ontario College of Teachers. The complaint initiates an investigation into professional misconduct against the teacher, who contacts OECTA’s Counselling and Member Services department for help.
OECTA provides legal counsel for matters directly related to one’s duties as a teacher. The criminal charge was a private matter and therefore did not meet the test for legal assistance. However, OECTA does provide legal assistance before the Ontario College of Teachers because the results will directly affect the member’s teaching certificate.
When the Ontario College of Teachers receives a formal complaint, the Registrar initiates an investigation. The Registrar informs the teacher in writing that an investigation is underway, names an investigator, and provides relevant information concerning the complaint. The role of the investigator is to gather information from the complainant, the teacher being investigated, and any other relevant parties. The teacher is required to respond in writing within a specified timeframe. OECTA staff advises all members to allow OECTA’s legal counsel to address all matters before the College of Teachers, because whatever is presented, verbal or written, may be relied upon in legal proceedings.
A teacher’s off-duty conduct can have profound impact on their professional life. Increasingly, teachers’ off-duty conduct is being challenged in court and by the College of Teachers, regardless of professional successes.
The courts hold teachers to a higher standard than the general public. In findings in several cases, the Supreme Court of Canada has warned teachers that they cannot “check their teaching hats at the school yard gate.”
Teachers are cautioned that even their off-duty conduct may be scrutinized by the College of Teachers. The College of Teachers assesses conduct with the following concerns in mind:
- Is it reasonable to connect the conduct outside the classroom to what is or may occur in the classroom?
- What is the impact on the reputation of the individual teacher, the teaching profession, the reputation of the school, the public's confidence, and/or the safety of the students?